“Ittekimasu!” I say to my dorm-father as I rush out the door at 7:45 am to catch the last train that reaches my university’s building on time. Normally, I would grimace at the mere idea of a half an hour commute to school, but the past two weeks in Tokyo, Japan have really expanded my image of not only the Japanese language, culture, and lifestyle, but also the way I want to live the rest of my life. I have studied the Japanese language for some years, and so I already had some semblance of what to expect from life here. During my travel preparation I honestly thought that I completely readied myself to begin my first adventure outside of the country on my own. I spent years studying Japan in high school and in college. I fully understood that the rich culture of this country held more new and interesting ideas in store for me, but no amount of studying braced me for the lessons that these first weeks in Japan taught me about myself.
I always try to allocate time for self-reflection, because I find it incredibly important in my own personal growth. Going into this trip I felt I had a firm grasp on my sense of self. Although I firmly believe that one’s personality continuously changes I failed to anticipate the drastic shift that studying abroad inflicted on my personal perspective on life. Even just introducing myself to people whom hail from all over the world threw me for a loop. I wondered how I stacked up against graduate students from Germany, a travel-loving Professor of Gender and Women Studies, soon-to-be doctors from Taiwan and China, and of course native Japanese citizens. Identifying the most important elements of my background to share proved a difficult task especially when presented with so many new and interesting people. How did I want to represent myself? As an American? A random undergraduate exchange student? An Elizabethtown College Blue Jay?
Meeting Alexandria Krause, a fellow Blue Jay, added perspective to my journey, “being abroad changed the way I view both myself and the world around me,” she explained to me on the train ride back to our dorm after a long day of class. Although Alex and I study Japanese at the College, belong to the class of 2017, and have a handful of mutual friends; studying halfway around the globe brought us together. This showed me the mysterious and amazing paths that one can take in life, and how best laid plans sometimes do not work out like we expect. Nonetheless I am thankful for meeting Alex, and although she is possibly unaware, every day we commute to and from school together, share meals, and meet new friends I find myself more and more thankful for my Blue Jay family all over the world. I also discovered some old friends, with whom I began my Japanese studies in high school, are also spending a semester abroad in Tokyo giving me a chance to both reflect on the past and look forward to new opportunities to learn. This trip blazed the trail for me to continue growing with new friends, old friends, and new experiences outside my comfort zone.
These first couple weeks in Japan have shed light on the room for growth in my life. This albeit overwhelming, frightening, but incredible experience has just begun. With a fellow Blue Jay, new friends, and even some old friends by my side I am ready for an unforgettable semester abroad.
Please note: Student Lynn O’Connor ’17 originally wrote this article for The Etownian published on January 28, 2016.. The Etownian is Elizabethtown College’s student newspaper. Click here to view the original article.
Leave a Reply